Today I am on the road. John DeFrancesco, WWII Veteran of the 8th Air Force and 384th Bomb Group, my husband Bill, and I are heading to New Orleans. By this evening, we will be in the company of many other WWII Veterans of the 8th Air Force, and their families and friends. I’m looking forward to reuniting with old friends and making new ones.
It is the first day of our 2017 Reunion, which opens tonight with a Welcome Reception. We have three more days to look forward to with tours of the National World War II Museum, New Orleans City Tour, and Plantation Tour. We also have special dinners to anticipate – an 8th Air Force dinner buffet and speaker, an intimate Rendezvous Dinner with everyone dining with their individual bomb group, and the Gala Dinner and Program at the World War II Museum at the end of the week.
This year will probably be one of the largest turnouts for an 8th Air Force Reunion as we all gather in New Orleans. The Veterans, their spouses, NexGen (Next Generation) family, and friends who will meet this week to remember the Mighty Eighth represent 8th AF HQ (Headquarters), the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Savannah, Georgia, and over thirty bombardment and fighter groups of the 8th Air Force which were based in England during WWII.
B-17 Heavy Bombardment Groups
- 91st Bomb Group, based in Bassingbourn
- 92nd Bomb Group, based in Podington
- 95th Bomb Group, based in Horham
- 96th Bomb Group, based in Snetterton Heath
- 100th Bomb Group, based in Thorpe Abbotts
- 303rd Bomb Group, based in Molesworth
- 305th Bomb Group, based in Chelveston
- 306th Bomb Group, based in Thurleigh
- 351st Bomb Group, based in Polebrook
- 379th Bomb Group, based in Kimbolton
- 381st Bomb Group, based in Ridgewell
- 384th Bomb Group, based in Grafton Underwood
- 385th Bomb Group, based in Great Ashfield
- 401st Bomb Group, based in Deenethorpe
- 447th Bomb Group, based in Rattlesden
- 452nd Bomb Group, based in Deopham Green
B-24 Heavy Bombardment Groups
- 34th Bomb Group, based in Mendlesham
- 44th Bomb Group, based in Shipdham
- 389th Bomb Group, based in Hethel
- 392nd Bomb Group, based in Wendling
- 445th Bomb Group, based in Tibenham
- 446th Bomb Group, based in Bungay
- 448th Bomb Group, based in Seething
- 453rd Bomb Group, based in Old Buckenham
- 458th Bomb Group, based in Horsham St. Faith
- 466th Bomb Group, based in Attlebridge
- 487th Bomb Group, based in Lavenham
- 489th Bomb Group, based in Halesworth
- 491st Bomb Group, based in Metfield
- 493rd Bomb Group, based in Debach
B-26 Marauders Medium Bombardment Group
- 386th Bomb Group, based in Snetterton Heath, Boxted, and Great Dunmow
- 352nd Fighter Group, based in Bodney, Norfolk
- 479th Fighter Group, based in Wattisham
We will mix and mingle in the hospitality suites and listen to many stories of courage and determination in the face of a long ago enemy.
From previous reunions, I know I will marvel at these men, now in their nineties, who in their teens and early twenties, fought for us in WWII and won our freedom. When I look these ninety-something-year-old Veterans in the eye, their wrinkles disappear, their backs straighten, and I can see directly into their past, see the boys from long ago who were warriors, patriots, and heroes.
It is as though time travel were possible and I am ducking flak and dodging German fighter bullets as I listen to the recollection of a particularly rough mission. I am not standing in an air-conditioned New Orleans hotel hospitality suite. I am in the skies over Germany and I am afraid. I am there because they are there. They will tell me what they experienced all those years ago as if it were yesterday. I don’t want to miss a word.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017
In researching WWII chaplains for previous articles, I wondered how a man of the cloth viewed war and his own involvement in it, how he reconciled the brutality of war within his own faith. How could these men of God, who volunteered to stand beside the officers and enlisted men of the various branches of service, rationalize and justify the killing of his enemies and destruction of his enemy’s homeland?
I wondered especially about the chaplains of the 384th Bomb Group and how they felt at the end of the day when many of the men that they had blessed that morning before the day’s mission didn’t return with the group that afternoon. Did they feel helpless knowing that they couldn’t protect or save every one? Did they wonder, when they looked into the faces before them on the morning of the next mission, which of these faces they were looking into for the last time?
It would not be surprising for the men who flew and returned from mission after mission to suffer from “shell shock,” or what we call today PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). They had flown through flak fields, faced enemy fighter attacks, watched other crews go down, and seen their own bombs’ destruction below on the enemy’s soil. But I would expect a military chaplain who had to witness the hell of war through the eyes of those he was shepherding could be as consumed with the guilt, terror, and grief as his flock.
When I read that the 384th’s Catholic chaplain Herbert Butterbach died of a heart attack at the age of thirty-five, shortly after returning to the States after the war, I wonder if his heart had been broken so severely from the many losses of his Group that he could no longer go on.
I began by looking at the rules and regulations the military set forth for these men, their guidelines of service. The US War Department’s AR (Army Regulations) 60-5 Chaplains General Provisions, spelled out the duties of a military chaplain, which included their duties to:
- Hold religious services
- Serve as friends, counselors, and guides, without discrimination, to all members of the command to which they are assigned, regardless of creed or sect
- Strive to promote morality, religion, and good order
- Conduct ceremonies including burial services, marriages, baptisms, etc.
- Interview or address new recruits in matters pertaining to morals and character
- Advise enlisted men under arrest or in confinement
- Make regular visits to the sick in the hospital
- Encourage correspondence between enlisted men and their relatives and friends
The 384th’s Protestant Chaplain, Dayle Schnelle, who was with the Group from the beginning, wrote an article for the Group’s very first WWII edition of their news publication, The Plane News, on April 17, 1943. This issue was published while the Group was still in the States, in Sioux City, Iowa. (Transcription below).
The Chaplain Says… by Chaplain Dayle R. Schnelle
Some time ago a very famous American was giving an address in the interest of public morale. In this speech he made this remark, “We are fighting God’s war for Him.” The two following questions may help us clarify our thinking.
First, what kind of war is God waging? This is no difficult question. His is a war against Sin and all the forces of Evil. Surely, we say, this describes Hitler. But God’s war is not against a man or men. His war is for them. He would destroy the evil that makes men like Hitler possible.
Second, who can fight God’s war? Naturally, the only soldier who can fight for the United States are soldiers of the United States. In like manner, God’s war is fought by His soldiers. Just any man cannot claim that honor. God has laid down certain requirements to which we must conform if we are to be in His army.
From this we may draw our conclusions. We must not blame God for our failures and our weaknesses. We cannot force God to join “our side” and exclude another. Our only hope for a final victory and a lasting peace is not in getting God on our side but for us to join “God’s side.”
The Christmas 1943 edition of The Plane News included a photo of Protestant chaplain Dayle Schnelle (on the left) and Catholic chaplain Method Billy (on the right) standing in front of the Group’s chapel at their base in Grafton Underwood, UK with Major Roy Dier, who supervised the church’s construction.
During my research, I ran across a paper written by a History Department Undergraduate at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Jeremiah Snyder. The title of Jeremiah’s paper, which was published in the Undergraduate Research Journal at UCCS in the Spring of 2009, is Let Us Die Bravely: United States Chaplains in World War II. (I’ve included a link at the bottom of this article).
Jeremiah looks at the role of military chaplains in WWII and how they fit into “America’s War Machine.” For those interested in more information on the role of military chaplains, I urge you to read Jeremiah’s entire paper. I will include only an excerpt here:
World War II chaplains served in the military for a number of reasons. One staunch pacifist clergyman turned military officer, Russell Cartwright Stroup, eloquently articulated the Christian justifications for the war. In a letter home to his brother and mother, Chaplain Stroup wrote:
I have asked myself so many times, “What am I doing here?”…I love peace so passionately and hate war so utterly. More than a hatred: I am convinced that war is utterly futile and senseless…yet here I am in the midst of it, feeling that it is right for me to be here and that, indeed, I could be nowhere else—even though this might cost me my life…
There is the challenge of the work. Here are men who need me…I feel that the church has never faced a greater opportunity, a heaven-sent chance to touch tomorrow’s manhood and to save America for Christ…
…I may be mistaken, but I doubt that there can be effective leadership in the church of tomorrow by men who, able to serve in the war, chose not to do so. Too many of our church men will be veterans…
…I must follow the Master: He would be found where mankind is suffering, and He would be sharing that suffering.
There is also the motive of “patriotism.” I have always loved America deeply…I cannot be indifferent to the call of my country, even though I may hate what we are called upon to do…
We are compelled to halt the aggression of an evil movement in the world. I do not think war will make a better world…But if we had stood by and allowed the Nazi, the Fascist, and the militarist to run wild in our world, the darkness would become deeper and the night longer…
…I want to be found on the side of the dignity and worth of human personality, of liberty, of the rights of man. I want to be found opposing tyranny, oppression, bigotry, and the exultation of materialism. I do not think that God blesses war, but I do hope that He blesses those who, in good conscience, are willing to sacrifice, in peace or war, for what they believe are principles in accord with His Holy Will.”
Jeremiah quoted Chaplain Stroup’s letter from Letters from the Pacific: A Combat Chaplain in World War II (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000).
I also wondered about the faith of the men who served in WWII in other capacities. The faith of some, it seems, strengthened. They believed God brought them through their ordeal. But some lost their faith in God. My grandmother, my father’s mother, was a Sunday School teacher in the Presbyterian church. I’m sure she believed that God brought her son home from the war. God guided him through his missions, watched over him in the prison camp, and held his hand on the Black March through Germany. But after WWII, I don’t believe my dad had the same relationship with God that he did before he fought in it. I think he may have felt abandoned by God and wondered how his God could leave him as the only survivor of his ship while taking the lives of all the others, how God could let him nearly starve to death, and why his God would let the memories visit him every day and every night for the rest of his life.
At the end of my dad’s military training, just before he was shipped overseas to his air base, he wrote his mother…
I’ll write you as often as I can, and I want you to know that I haven’t waited this long to start asking God to help me. That is one thing I have never been too proud to do, and I think it helps a lot, too.
But after the war, I think he lost his faith. I never knew my dad to step foot in church when I was growing up except for a handful of weddings and funerals. He and my mother were married by a Justice of the Peace in the county courthouse, not by a Minister in a church. We blessed God and thanked him for the food on our table every night before dinner, but other than that, God was not invited into our home. I was sent to Sunday School in the Presbyterian Church, the church of Dad’s mother, only sporadically, and never taken to a church service, although I went once by myself. I chose not to go back after the preacher’s sermon taught me that I was surely going to Hell and that my God was a vengeful God, not the kind and loving and caring God that I had imagined him to be. Upon announcing one day when I was in my teens that I didn’t believe in God, Dad told me, “Don’t you ever say that again.” End of discussion. Apparently his belief in God was still strong, the relationship just strained.
I found God later on my own. I consider myself spiritual, though not religious, meaning that I do have my belief in a kind and loving God, but do not care for organized religion and the structure of the church. I feel God outside in the fresh air among the flowers and trees. I hear God in the gentle breeze and see Him in the sunrise, in the sunset, and in the faces of friends. I feel His presence in the roar of the ocean and the first cry of a newborn. I feel my closest connection to God when I walk alone on a beach, not sitting in the pew of a church. I don’t talk to God often, but when I do, I thank Him for another beautiful day in this world. I do believe in God. I have Faith in God. But then, I’ve never been to war.
To read the entire AR 60-5 Chaplains General Provisions document, click here.
The Plane News was brought out of retirement from WWI, where it originated aboard the warship, The Baltic. To read the entire story or more of this issue and others on the 384th Bomb Group’s web site, click here.
To read Jeremiah Snyder’s Undergraduate Research Journal at UCCS paper, Let Us Die Bravely: United States Chaplains in World War II, click here.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017 (with the exception of Jeremiah Snyder’s excerpt)
In my original post about 384th Bomb Group chaplains, I included James T. Duvall as one of the Group’s chaplains. I believed that Duvall was with the Group at Istres, France after the end of the war. Keith Ellefson has since discovered that Duvall was not assigned or attached to the 384th Bomb Group. Keith notes that “He was assigned to the 415th Air Service Group as the 415th Air Service Group Chaplain.” Keith also added “However, he was assigned to the main unit that supported the 384th, so I imagine that the 384th Chaplain and the 415th Chaplain worked together to support the mission at Istres.”
Keith did find one more chaplain associated with the 384th, though. He was Julius Garst Appleton.
Julius Garst Appleton was born July 12, 1902 to Henry and Edith Garst Appleton in Ohio. His father Henry was a draftsman. Julius grew up in the Cincinnati area and at seventeen years old was reported on the 1920 Federal census to be in engineering for a railroad and was a student.
Between 1920 and 1924, Julius attended the College of Engineering and Commerce at the University of Cincinnati. Before college, Julius attended Woodward High School in Cincinnati.
“Braune Civils” is an abbreviation for the Braune Civil Engineering Society, which was the Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers at the University of Cincinnati .
On the morning of his college graduation, June 14, 1924, he married Julia Lucinda Earl. She was born July 10, 1900 or 1901.
On June 21, 1924, the “Cincinnati Enquirer” reported that “Cincinnati is to provide two more young people for the missionary field in China. Julius Garst Appleton, graduate civil engineer of the University of Cincinnati, who married Miss Julia Earl on the morning of his graduation, is the latest member of the Varsity Student Volunteers to make good his pledge.”
I’m not sure what the missionary position in China entailed, but apparently Julius and Julia were back in the states by 1927. In the Hartford, Connecticut city directory, Julius and Julia Appleton are listed as an assistant engineer and stenographer. Julius and Julia were still living in Hartford in 1930 according to the Federal census. Julius was a civil engineer for the city and Julia was a stenographer for an insurance company. They had no children.
According to the Hartford city directory of 1931, Julius and Julia had moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut. In the Bridgeport city directory for the years 1932 to 1934, Reverend Julius G. Appleton was listed as the pastor of the Bethany Congregational Church in Bridgeport. There is no record of how Julius transitioned from civil engineer to pastor.
By 1936, Julius and Julia had moved to Cleveland, Ohio. The city directory for Cleveland lists Julius G. Appleton as a Clergyman (having churches).
On May 20, 1941, Julius enlisted in the army. I do not have detail of his record in the service, but apparently he served in the Army Air Forces in England. He returned to the US aboard the Queen Elizabeth on June 29, 1945 and was released from the service on May 2, 1946.
While I am curious about how Julius Appleton transitioned from civil engineer to pastor, I am also curious about what role he played in the 8th Air Force. I do know that in 1941, he was stationed at the Headquarters of the 37th Engineer Regiment, Chaplain’s Office, at Camp Bowie, Texas. And I do know that he was concerned with the needs of Jewish soldiers. On October 24, 1941, he wrote a letter to the Director of the National Jewish Welfare Board in New York City. He wrote:
Just a week ago today Chaplain Julius A. Leibert, Jewish Chaplain for Camp Bowie, dedicated our Chapel (Chapel No. 8 – 37th Engrs Area) here at the Camp for use in Jewish Services for the Jewish Soldiers and the Jewish Congregation of Brownwood. Today he has gone – transferred to Camp Beauregard, Louisiana! We regret losing such a fine worker.
Feeling that these services, so auspiciously begun last week, should not be allowed to die out I have offered to be of what assistance I can as a Chaplain of the Christian Faith. As Chapel No. 8 is central to the majority of the Units here in the camp where Jewish Soldiers are located, I feel it is wise to continue the Friday Evening Services here, if the others so desire, and am willing to do all in my power to help hold the group together.
The Ark in our Chapel has been especially lined and last week Chaplain Leibert installed in it The Torah (his own however) for use. With him gone, taking his Torah with him, the Ark looks quite bare. I am wondering if you have some way of providing for our use another Torah which could be placed in our Ark for these Jewish Services. I am sure our Jewish Soldiers and the Jewish Congregation from Brownwood would greatly appreciate the gift or loan of a Torah from you for use in this Chapel. It could well be the point of focus that would help hold together our fine group of Jewish Soldiers and Civilains. Anything you could do to help in this regard will be appreciated by me personally and by our Jewish folk as well.
If you can suggest any way that I may be of assistance to our group here, I’ll be glad to hear from you.
He signed the letter “Julius G. Appleton, Chaplain 37th Engrs.” Chaplain Appleton received a reply from Benjamin Rabinowitz, thanking him for offering his services in connection with the religious needs of the Jewish soldiers stationed at the post. Rabinowitz worked to procure a Sefer Torah for use at the post.
Julius and Julia may have had children, but I can find no record of any. I also cannot find a 1940 census record for them, so am not sure where they lived at the time.
Julius Garst Appleton died February 27, 1985 in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona. He was buried in the Greenwood Memory Lawn Mortuary and Cemetery in Phoenix.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017
Robert Dayle Schnelle was born July 30, 1916 to Robert Wesley and Wava Ann Davis Schnelle in Sharon, Barber County, Kansas. He preferred to be called by his middle name and even alternately reported his name to be Dayle Robert Schnelle. Dayle’s father Robert was born March 17, 1884 in Lemons, Missouri. Dayle’s mother Wava was born August 9, 1884 in Kansas.
In the 1920 Federal census record, the Schnelle family lived on a farm in Medicine Lodge, Barber County, Kansas. The family consisted of father Robert (33), who was a farmer, mother Wava (33), sister Dorene (8), sister Florence (7), Dayle (3), and brother Floyd (2). On October 5, 1920, Dayle’s mother Wava gave birth to twins, Fred and Phillip Davis Schnelle. Four days later, on October 9, Wava and baby Fred died.
In the 1930 Federal census record, the Schnelle family lived in Sharon, Barber County, Kansas. The family consisted of Dayle’s father Robert (45), who was a farmer, step-mother Emma (36), sister Dorene L. (18), sister Florence M. (16), Dayle, listed as Robert D. Jr. (13), and brother Floyd R. (12). Although Ancestry.com records indicate that Dayle’s younger brother, surviving twin Phillip, lived until 2003, Phillip is not listed on the 1930 census. Sometime between 1920 and 1930, Robert remarried. (Note the discrepancy in Robert’s age: if he was 33 in 1920, he should have been 43 in 1930).
From at least 1935 to 1938 Dayle was a student at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma. He likely also attended Phillips in 1934 or 1939, but I do not see a record for those years.
In 1940, Dayle lived in Pratt, Pratt County, Kansas and was minister of the Christian Church.
Sometime between 1940 and 1942, Dayle married Mildred J. “Suzy” Riley. Suzy was born April 3, 1920 in Fowler, Meade, Kansas.
In 1942, Suzy gave birth to her and Dayle’s son, Robert Dayle Schnelle, Jr. That same year, Dayle Sr. enlisted in the Army on September 27, 1942. He would serve as a Protestant Chaplain of the Army Air Forces.
According to 384th Bomb Group records, Dayle Schnelle was Presbyterian and came from the 33rd SCS, which was under the sub-depot. He was an original chaplain to the group and served with them until the end of the war. He was released from the service on November 24, 1945.
During Dayle’s tenure with the 384th, he had occasion to write an MIA (Missing in Action) letter to my grandmother.
The text of the letter reads:
October 9, 1944
384th Bombardment Group
APO 557 c/o P.M., N.Y.
Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar
79 East Lake Terrace, N.E.,
Dear Mrs. Farrar:
May I, as Chaplain of the 384th Bombardment Group, personally, and pursuant to the request of the Commanding General, Eighth Air Force, and in behalf of the Group Commander, express to you our deepest and heartfelt concern regarding your son, S/Sgt. George E. Farrar, 14119873, who is reported as missing in action.
I am well aware of the worry and anxiety which is yours. May I assure you that you will be notified immediately should any further word concerning your son be received. May I urge you to remember that you should in no wise consider your son as dead. It is highly possible that he may yet escape or is being held a prisoner of war. In either case it will be some time before any word will be received concerning him. May I add that your concern is our concern, not only of this group, but also of the entire Air Force as well.
There is no other information that I can give other than you have already received from the War Department, except, that all mail and packages will be returned to the sender. May I assure you that I believe that our God still answers prayers. I promise that I shall remember him continuely before God as I know that you are also doing. I firmly believe that the hand of God still guides the destiny of His children. May your faith in the ultimate triumph of God’s will give you courage, strength, and grace to meet the burden of this hour of uncertainty.
Dayle R. Schnelle,
Because of a world war, Dayle was not able to watch his young son grow up in the first three years of his life. Then two years after the end of Dayle’s service, his son Robert Dayle, Jr. died on November 8, 1947. Dayle Jr. is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Pratt, Pratt County, Kansas.
From at least 1949 to 1954, Dayle and Suzy lived in Arkansas City, Kansas. He was minister of the Central Christian Church. On April 2, 1951, Dayle and Suzy were blessed with a second son, David Michael Schnelle.
Over the next forty years, Dayle and Suzy lived in other parts of the country including Great Bend, Kansas and Colorado. Dayle lost his father, Robert Wesley Schnelle, on July 6, 1970 in Medicine Lodge, Barber County, Kansas.
In the 1990’s Dayle and Suzy lived in Alvin, Texas. Their son David was also living in Alvin, Texas when he died on March 3, 1993. Dayle had outlived both of his sons.
A year and a half later, Dayle Schnelle died on September 10, 1994 in Alvin, Brazoria County, Texas. He is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Pratt, Pratt County, Kansas.
Suzy died on December 6, 2014 in Alvin, Texas.
Thank you to Keith Ellefson, 384th Bomb Group Researcher and Combat Data Specialist, for contributing to this story.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017